“It just seems that most of what I’m reading in romance is the same thing over and over again,” I pointed out to my friend. “I mean, how many times can I read about two people hating each other but then coming to realize how much they love each other?”
“Probably about as many times as you can watch it on a romantic comedy,” she answered.
“Don’t point out my weaknesses.”
When it comes to romance novels, a girl has her likes. The best thing about having those likes is that you tend to find them quite frequently in romance novels. When book shopping either online or in the store, my roving eye tends to select repeat tropes. But sometimes, just sometimes, I veer off course. Okay, maybe I often do. Whether reading fantasy, romance, horror, or mystery, you can find many tropes that are remarkably similar.
Despite what some think, realistically tropes aren’t bad things, especially when you really enjoy them as a reader. You might be able to second guess the end result, sure, but for me what matters is the journey. Not to mention a writer can throw in a twist you don’t expect. Some authors I’ve read, regardless of genre, have gotten pretty good at getting outside of comfort zones and twisting it a bit.
Certain tropes really catch my eye when I find them in what I read. Most of what I do read is pretty varied but when you look into themes and devices, I typically am a pretty easy creature to satisfy. I just simply like nearly all of them. So the list I’ve gathered isn’t by any means exclusive but is just a matter of my top five likes for my reads. In my reviews I try to identify tropes among other literary devices but if you see a repeat, it is probably just because I read for enjoyment mostly versus extreme literary critique.
Top 3 Romance Tropes
Enemies to lovers –
Page 1 – “I loathe you!”
Page 300 – “I love you!”
The King of Unresolved Sexual Tension. The age old ‘we’re enemies but there’s an attraction’. Pulling off the Enemies to Lovers trope requires a bit of skill to get it really done well. If they fight too viciously, it isn’t believable that they’d get together. To ‘forgive and totally forget’ the cruel things said isn’t often believable in modern day and therefore this needs a light touch. Probably one way to call it is Frenemies to Lovers, where there is a hint of feeling between characters even under the animosity. Attraction plays a big part in this trope and it can even cross genres. I’ve seen this trope a lot in Fantasy as well though not so much as in SciFi or Mystery. Despite how much I enjoy this trope, for me watching/reading this trope has become one of the hardest tropes to please me in. I really enjoy it but I’ve also read some that make me cringe. Do it well though and I’ll sing your praises.
Example- Beatrice & Benedict in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ by William Shakespeare
Fish out of Water
“I don’t belong in your society”
“Neither do I.”
Essentially when a character enters a society/scenario that is out of their comfort zone but they prove themselves anyway. Okay, I admit it. This is one I grumble over sometimes but in the best of ways. When fish out of water is done well, we’re treated to some pretty strong characters who can handle their own no matter what scenario. I’m a pure sucker for strong female characters and often you can find them in these stories. Fish out of Water is a common one but it is one of the best in my opinion for developing character and having some great scenario. There’s even sub-tropes of this such as ‘stranger in foreign land’ or ‘rags to riches’. It’s a pretty rich trope in possibility and it is pure fun. There’s so many examples of Fish out of Water that I’m not even sure which one is best to suit the example I want to put, so try out this list from GoodReads
“I’m responsible of the death of my family.”
“I know but I still love you.’
Okay, so of the three, this is probably the one that tends to hit the most emotional punch. While the above two are probably demonstrative that I enjoy humour in my books (this girl likes to laugh you know), when it comes to a Redemption arc I tend to become the most emotionally involved in the writing. Whether the wrong committed is against the lover or against another, watching another character move towards Redemption can be a dizzying and exhausting journey, but when I read a good one it is typically the one that sticks with me all the more. Redemption is highly theme driven in my opinion and it can be executed in such a way to leave lasting feelings towards a book and a set of characters. My only warning toward this one is that the redemption needs to match the crime. The bigger the crime, the higher the stakes in redeeming that character.
Non-Romance Example: Atonement by Ian McEwan
So there you have my top 3 favourite tropes in romance novels. I could likely be seen as loving those tropes in almost any genre of literature as it is but for romance those are my hardest hitting and the ones I come back to time and time again.
Do you have a favourite trope? Let me know in the comments and we’ll see if I have some suggestions or if you have a suggestion for what I should read, let me know!